I haven't used a plate insert for a router table (my table is home-made
from a chunk of leftover countertop). However, if you look around, it
doesn't seem like $35 is really a special deal for a phenolic plate.
For example, Rockler has a polycarbonate plate for $17, and an aluminum
one (1/4" thick) for $50.
Lee Valley has an interesting phenolic plate for $31.50. Shop around -
Woodcraft, Amazon, etc.
Whatever way you go, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the
increased usefulness, cleanliness (with dust collection thru fence),
and safety of routing in a table.